Literary Criticism and Significance
Award-winning author Chris Crutcher places his main character in a uniquely untenable situation in Deadline. Although some reviewers have found the premise behind the plot of the story to be a little far-fetched, criticism is for the most part united in praising the book as valuable addition to the canon of young adult literature and an eminently enjoyable read. The protagonist, eighteen-year-old Ben Wolf, is intelligent and engaging as he narrates the events of the last year of his life with colorful, colloquial language and a wry sense of humor. Through Ben, the author sets the tone of the story; although the subject matter is grim, Ben communicates his sense of urgency without self-pity and tempers his understandable emotionalism with an often endearing, self-deprecating wit. Ben is at first clueless about the implications of his decision, but he is intrepid in his determination to experience and learn as much as he can in the short time he has left. He takes the reader with him through the frenetic happenings of the last year of his life, approaching everything with a sense of intensity and wonder until his illness slows him down.
As with so many of Crutcher's works, the central character is passionate about issues of social awareness, and although reviewers have noted that Ben waxes didactic at times, especially in his confrontations with his current events teacher Mr. Lambeer, his quest for truth is on the whole genuine and sincere. The book addresses a host of difficult topics that will resonate with teen readers, including alcoholism, child molestation, mental illness, and bigotry. The author has managed to include multiple subplots, quirky characters, and an in-depth examination of a variety of complex themes, not the least of which is the meaning of life, in a story that is well-constructed and surprisingly easy to follow. Fast-moving and packed with riveting sports scenes, sharp repartee, and insightful, thought-provoking discussions about things that matter, the book has a great deal of substance and relevance and provides a viable option for the reluctant older reader.